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Stoneman Douglas Students, Teacher Discuss How New Book 'Parkland Speaks' Helped Them Heal

Forty-three students and teachers who survived the Parkland massacre on Feb. 14, 2018 have published a compilation of writing, photography and art.

In  "Parkland Speaks: Survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting Share Their Stories,"the stories are raw and emotional first-person accounts that explain how the six-minute shooting changed their lives.

Student Nadia Murillo, 16, wrote a play-by-play of her experience and her emotions during the shooting. She explores how her perception of Valentine's Day has changed and how her mom helped her get through the day. Student Leni Steinhardt, 17, wrote a letter to Senator Marco Rubio requesting gun reform in Florida. And journalism teacher and mom Sarah Lerner edited the book and has two pieces in it. 

The Sundial team visited the Northwest Regional Library in Coral Springs to speak to Murillo, Steinhardt and Lerner. They talked about how contributing to the book helped them heal, how they dealt with media outlets after the shooting and the responsibility they felt to make sure the book was perfect. 

STEINHARDT: After the shooting all of my emotions were so raw and I turned to writing as my outlet -- just put my thoughts down on a piece of paper and what my thoughts ended up becoming was an angry letter to my local congressman and woman demanding [to know] why this happened. My parents couldn't answer this question. My grandparents couldn't answer this question. No one in my life knew why this could happen to a perfectly safe community like Parkland. These words really gave me power - something that I didn't initially have after this. I felt so powerless.

WLRN: Why do you think it was important to share your story by retelling the events? Why did you want to do that?

MURILLO: Many of us students were all in different places throughout the shooting. A lot of us had different perspectives. And I wanted to give my perspective. Many people think that because if you're in a certain location that it was different for you, but in reality I feel that no matter where you were during that shooting I feel that it was just the same. Physically and mentally [it was the same]. I feel that everyone just needed to hear a different perspective. And I needed to hear mine as well.

Sarah, you have your own story.

LERNER: I have two pieces in the book. One talking about that day. There's a picture that I had tweeted earlier in the morning where I'm in my heart leggings and I was joking that I was like ruining my students Valentine's Day because I was giving a quiz to my seniors. I would leave little Hershey kisses on their desks so they wouldn't hate me forever. I wanted to share my story. We all had different perspectives and different locations and vantage points of the events. But unlike the students in the book, I'm a mom and I have two children and my son was at the middle school next door and texted me because he's on lockdown. He was scared and I had to tell him I'm okay and I'm not shot.

Leni, what issues did you have with the way that the media covered the story?

STEINHARDT: First and foremost I think just plainly saying his name in headlines. That's just in our face. We're always on social media as teenagers and to be scrolling through feeds once you're finally in a good place.... And just to see his face or see the shooter's name you know it just brings you back in. It's a very challenging dilemma.

We're kind of in this bubble that is now the Parkland shooting and it's hard to escape it sometimes. I'm walking out of school and I see a news van taking videos of us and I was like, there's either a another shooting somewhere, a court hearing happening or some form of anniversary that popped up of someone's birthday. No positive trade is affiliated with any of it.

LERNER: I get that reporters are just trying to do their job, but it's the sensationalizing of it. And there was a story written by a newspaper that ... was solely based on tweets. There were no quotes. There were no sources. This was the entire story. That's the part that bothers me. And when you drive up and you see the news trucks outside of school it just puts you right back to where you were.

Need support right now?WLRN put together a list of free mental health and trauma resources. 

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Marjory Stoneman Douglass Journalism Teacher Sarah Lerner, student Leni Steinhardt, 17 and student Nadia Murillo, 16 stand in front of the Northwest Regional Library in Coral Springs.
Alejandra Martinez /
Marjory Stoneman Douglass Journalism Teacher Sarah Lerner, student Leni Steinhardt, 17 and student Nadia Murillo, 16 stand in front of the Northwest Regional Library in Coral Springs.

Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.
Chris Remington knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
I was introduced to radio my sophomore year of college, after a classmate invited me to audition for a DJ job at the campus' new radio station, WFCF. I showed up, read a couple of cue cards, and got the job. The following semester I changed his major and radio has been a part of my life ever since.
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